I give Tyler a lot of freedom. So much so that I’m sure I get judged by others on my parenting style. There are a few things I know, however.
- Tyler is extremely smart. He can write letters, some words, asks constantly how to spell words, holds full conversations with others and is thoughtful and capable of making deductions based on the context of a conversation.
- Tyler has a fantastic imagination. He is constantly imagining up new super heroes, creates “robots” with Legos, all with interesting powers and abilities, yet still understands that Iron Man, Thor, and Spiderman are only pretend characters that do not exist in real life.
- Tyler is very conscientious. He typically is very aware of his surroundings. He understands when things are too high to jump from, he keeps his distance from anything we’ve defined as dangerous (fire, stove, knives), and even wears goggles when “helping” me work on some of my wood projects.
I sometimes feel like I need to justify the way I parent my kids. Nothing is outwardly spoken, but I sometimes have this tickle in the back of my mind telling me that I’m being judged. And it’s true. I know I’m being judged… you know why? Because I’m likely judging you on your parenting skills as well. True story.
A few days ago, I decided it was time to put up the clothesline that Sarah asked for. Tyler and I went to Lowes to pick up some lumber and supplies for the project. They were also having a “Build and Grow” session that day, so Tyler got to build a Luxury Assault Vehicle out of wood and nails. When we got home with the clothesline supplies, I had some cutting, chiseling, and hammering to do. I had to manually cut some of the pieces of wood with a saw, which Tyler found quite interesting.
“Daddy, can I use the saw too?”
I showed Tyler how to use the saw and explained that the teeth on the saw are very sharp and would cut him if he wasn’t careful. What could possibly go wrong, right?
I got busy with a hammer and chisel, notching the wood so that the 4×4 cross member would fit snugly into the 4×4 upright. I looked over towards Tyler to see how his piece of scrap wood was coming along.
“Daddy, why’s it only scratching the wood?”
“Well, sawing a piece of wood is a little bit hard and takes a lot of muscle and work, buddy. Keep trying and it will eventually cut into the wood. If it doesn’t, that’s okay too, right?”
I drilled holes to hold the two pieces together, and became quite frustrated when I realized that the carriage bolts I bought weren’t long enough. So, I used a spade bit to bore into the wood about an inch. I glanced over to Tyler to see the saw sitting on the ground and him holding his knee.
“Are you okay, buddy? Did you hurt yourself?”
And he was okay… until his knee started to bleed. He squeezed his knee harder and started to yell. You’d think he’d just performed a self-amputation as much as he was yelling. And let’s be honest here. Blood is scary to a little kid. I’ll concede this point, but c’mon man; this was akin to a little tiny, itty bitty, teenie weenie paper cut. One drop of blood, maximum. I’m not accusing him of being a sissy – far from it – but he seriously needed to man up here.
I then had to spend the next three of four minutes trying to calm him down and explain that one drop of blood was not a good reason to cry. I explained that sometimes accidents happen and it was a good thing that this was just a little accident and that he was able to learn that tools can be dangerous even when we’re careful. He finally began to calm and was soon playing around again.
Audrey even helped build the clothesline posts, handing me hooks and pulleys when I asked for them. After a few hours of hard work, cutting, drilling, building, digging, and cementing, Tyler had the bright idea of going out for dinner. We all settled on some T.G.I. Friday’s and piled in the SUV.
After a nice dinner, we talked while driving back to the house. I explained to Sarah exactly what happened and my conversation with Tyler. I spoke loud enough so that Tyler could listen, as we are wont to do in these situations. This way, we are all on the same page.
“It hurt him. But after talking, it turns out that it only hurt him a little bit. Not a lot. He was a little bit scared because it made him bleed, but I told him that I cut myself sometimes too and it’s okay.”
Sarah replied, saying that she was happy things were okay and that Tyler wasn’t hurt too badly. It feels silly to speak in language and tones that are aimed at a toddler when actually speaking with an adult, but it’s helped us raise a very smart little one, so…..
“Yes, and after a few minutes, it didn’t even hurt him any more. I guess the cut on his leg was no big deal.”
“Daddy,” Tyler chimed in from the back seat, “your FACE is no big deal!!!”